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5 Traits of a Micromanager (and How to Fix Them)

Micromanagement is the plague of the technology-driven workplace. Here's how to spot it and what to do instead.
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Everyone agrees that micromanagement is a bad thing, but not everyone knows how to identify and correct it.

In my experience, micromanagement manifests itself in the following five avoidable behaviors:

1. Measuring too many things.

The advantage of technology is that you can measure your business more accurately.  The disadvantage is that technology makes it too easy to measure too much.  Measuring so much that it's not clear what the data really means is classic micromanagement.

What to do instead: For every job, select one or two metrics that define success for that job.  Ignore everything else.

2. Monitoring too closely.

Monitoring is sometimes confused with measurement, but the two are different.  You measure data; you monitor behavior.  Monitoring becomes micromanagement if you're always looking over employees' shoulders.

What to do instead: Let employees request monitoring and coaching when if and when they feel the need to improve their performance.

3. Building too much consensus.

Gathering inputs before making a decision is a good idea, especially from the people who'll be affected by the decision. However, you're micromanaging if you end up discussing things to death before making a decision.

What to do instead: Set a deadline for the decision. Schedule a limited amount of meeting time to gather inputs.  Then make the decision by the deadline.

4. Intervening too much.

Helicopter managers are as bad as helicopter parents--they create helplessness in the people they're trying to help. The only way that people can grow is by making mistakes, which means that the manager can't be jumping in all the time to fix things.

What to do instead: Provide guidance when asked, but let your employees fail.  If they can't or don't learn from their mistakes, they're not worth keeping as employees.

5. Setting too many priorities.

Managers confuse employees (and themselves as well) when have a list of "priorities" all of which are more or less equally important.  This creates micromanagement because that's the only way to "keep all the plates spinning."

What to do instead: Set one overriding priority for each employee, each team, each group and each division.  Let them sort out how to achieve that goal or objective.

More on Effective Management:

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Last updated: May 30, 2014

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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